Goodbye Duckies

This might come as a bit of a shock to many of you reading this blog, but I’ve just sold the nine ducks at Vidamour Farm. Goodbye duckies!

A few weeks ago, we had a fatality at the farm. At this stage I still believe that it was next door’s dog that was the culprit. Having to say goodbye to a duck was a surprise and a shock, but it had to happen at some stage.

Only a week or two later we lost our two favourite ducks at home. Niffler and Tonks had been with us for two and a half years and strange personalities and were great egg layers. Unfortunately one night they just didn’t go back into their coop (they had been for the fortnight previous) and this meant they wereย sitting ducks for a hungry fox. This was a particularly devastating attack and I started to question whether we should change our path a little bit.

Soon after, I was contacted by Marty from Hummingbird Cafe in Red Hill. They were keen on knowing a little bit more about ducks because they needed to protect their produce from slugs and bugs and wanted a natural alternative.

I gave Marty much of my learnings and experience with ducks and invited him to come and have a luck at our nine at Vidamour Farm. After checking them out, Marty mentioned they would be interested in buying them from us (especially because I mentioned we just weren’t sure what we were going to do).

This was something I hadn’t really considered and would mean a substantial change in direction. I thought about it for about a week or so and decided to do it.

hummingbird cafe

Hummingbird cafe’s vegetable garden built on permaculture principles. No nets. This is where the duckies will be.

Hummingbird Cafe has a fantastic little set-up with plenty of area for the ducks, and they’ve even got two drakes there already. Unfortunately for Marty he was originally told that they were girls… This sort of thing appears to be common with ducks because there’s not enough knowledge out there.

ย It’s meant we’ve gone from 12 ducks, then 11, the 9 ducks down to 0. A big change, but it means that we’re currently a little bit more flexible. We’re able to put more effort in setting up The Briars Marketย and get our own house in order. When the time comes, we can quickly get some more ducks and start producing again. For now though, it’s goodbye duckies!


7 Comments

Jimmy

G’day,

I’ve been following your blog posts about ducks with enthusiasm because although I have a couple of ISA brown chickens at the moment I’m looking at moving over to ducks. Reading this post, then, about having sold your ducks came as a little bit of a surprise, but it’s certainly understandable.

After your experience with the ducks you had and particularly about the types of ducks they ended up being (I’m referring to an earlier blog post about you having purchased them from Wagner’s Poultry in Coldstream and buying them with the belief that they were Khaki Campbell cross Pekin Ducks, but then discovering that this may not have been the case, which may have impacted on the amount of eggs they laid), would you recommend buying this cross bred duck from Wagner’s if you’re wanting good egg laying ducks?

Thanks again, and keep up the great work with the blog ๐Ÿ™‚

Jimmy

Matt Taylor

Hi Jimmy,

Thank you for reading our blog! I’ll try my best to respond to your questions.

Firstly, I would stress that I’m not done with ducks entirely. I am very fond of them and as soon as circumstances allow, I’ll be getting some(many) more!

You raise an interesting point and something that I’ve pondered quite bit recently. Having had my experience, would I make changes to the method in which I raise a flock in the future? Yes is probably the answer.

While the group of ten I acquired were adorable and served their purpose for some time, I would not rely on them for egg production (and pure Pekin would be preferable for meat I think). Having said that, we were given a X duck from Wagner’s previously and she was a magnificent layer (she was called Tonks, as mentioned in this post, and you can see her in the Instagram image in this post). My original plan was to have ten more of her, and I would’ve been happy with that – sadly it didn’t work out.

If I was after a reliable flock of ducks, then I would set about sourcing quality birds from reputable sellers. They’re not as easy to find as quality chickens, but there are some sellers/breeders out there. I have found a couple of people on Facebook who I would be interested in buying from in the future. It’s substantially more expensive and time consuming, but I think it’s the right thing to do. If you’re just after a couple of ducks to try or want to expand quickly, then buying from Wagner’s may be a good option. In my opinion, the Wagner’s X’s are more backyard quality than commercial layers. Keeping in mind my sample size isn’t humungous!

I’m curious, are you on a farm, or just more of a hobbyist with some room?

Hopefully that response helps. If you have any more questions, I’m more than happy to share ๐Ÿ™‚

Matt

Jimmy

G’day Matt,

Thanks for your reply above… that info does help ๐Ÿ™‚ Re your question about whether I’m on a farm or a hobbyist with a little room, well it’s interesting you ask, because this is the main concern I have – space – and whether I have enough of it to keep 2 ducks!

See as I mentioned above I have a couple of chickens at the moment and they’re in my unit’s small backyard in the burbs of Melbourne, where in total, including the space that my chicken coop sits on, it probably measures 9 or 10 metres long by about 3 metres deep, where my chickens (and ducks would, if I got them) free range all day and go in and out of the coop that has an automatic door on it.

I realise that ducks produce a lot more waste than chickens, and therefore this is what’s made me hesitate to moving over to purchasing just 2 ducks, the fact that this area might be too small for them.

And if I did end up getting ducks then good egg layers is what I’d be after, and that’s why I was wondering whether you’d recommend the cross bred ducks at Wagner’s, because Wagner’s is reasonably convenient for me, and as you’ve kind of hinted at, finding quality birds, particularly ducks, aren’t all that easy to find (or certainly not as easy, it seems, to finding chickens even).

With that area I’ve outlined above, do you reckon it’s too small an area for a couple of ducks?

Cheers,

Jimmy

Matt Taylor

Hi Jimmy,

It should be fine for 2 chickens and 2 ducks in that area, although it might depend whether you’re able to supplement their food. At my house I had two ducks and two chickens in an area that would be a bit more than 30m2. The ducks ensured that there was very little grass, so I just needed to provide additional kitchen scraps, greens when available and some pellets/grains each day. When the ducks were laying, they would consume more feed so it would vary during the year.

A couple of words of caution: Firstly, the reason our two ducks at home got taken by a fox is because they didn’t go back inside their coop with an automatic door (after about 2-3 weeks of going inside just fine). The chickens had already gone away so they were fine during the attack. The ducks at the farm also didn’t go in at night. In my experience, you can’t rely 100% on a duck going away by itself at night.

Secondly, ducks can be a bit loud. Generally the egg laying varieties are considered a little more raucous than the larger birds and males. I was fine at our place, but that may have been helped by the fact a number of my neighbours have animals. Is that the case with you? Or are you in an area quite built up?

I certainly loved growing the ducks from day-olds, so I’d encourage it. They’re a bit of work, but at least it’s heading into warmer weather so they won’t get so cold easily. Knowing a bit more about your circumstances, I’d give the ducklings a go from Wagner’s and see how they go. I might’ve been unlucky with my batch, plus you’ll get the benefit of them being hand reared and knowing you well.

Hope that helps!

Matt

Matt Taylor

In terms of free range guidelines, you’re looking at 1500 birds per hectare (10,000 m2). That equates to about one bird per 6.6m2, which you’ve got covered in your area. Some ‘free range’ farms have 10,000 birds per hectare!

Jimmy

G’day Matt,

Gee, so literally after 2-3 weeks of your ducks putting themselves to bed each night and the automatic door closing behind them, as it should, they decided to not do so for some unknown reason and then were attacked by a fox?? Wow!

This, and the noise factor as you also mention, are 2 of the downsides not commonly mentioned about keeping ducks versus chickens. ๐Ÿ™ I had high hopes of ‘training’ any ducks that I may end up getting to go into the coop at night like the chickens, but given you’re experience, that does not seem to be a deadset reliable way of keeping them safe at night, particularly because I do know that I have foxes around here too. Bugger!

Chickens, as we know, always ‘go home to roost’ which means that if you’ve got an automatic chicken door that is reliable and happen to do shift work, like me, or just don’t want to be locked in to having to be home each and every night to lock the coop door behind them, then you’ve got it made. Ah well.

Just re the noise factor, I did consider that due to having neighbours close by, and for that reason was tossing up getting two of the cross bred ducks from Wagner’s vs getting a couple of Muscovy’s, where, of course, there would be a compromise in doing so. (Muscovy’s = virtually quackless = great if you have neighbours close by BUT not as great egg layers compared to say runners or Campbell ducks.)

Well, once again Matt, thanks for the info re your experience – it really has been very helpful in that I’ve now made up my mind – it’s no ducks for me! I reckon I’ll continue on with chickens….

Cheers,

Jimmy ?

Matt Taylor

Hi Jimmy,

No worries! Happy to share what knowledge I’ve accrued over time ๐Ÿ™‚

I know – couldn’t believe that the ducks hadn’t put themselves away… My only explanation is that it was slightly less dark than usual because the days are getting longer. Still.

I certainly didn’t mean to make things seem all negative for ducks. They have some wonderful positives, but perhaps they just don’t work for you right now. I know there are some reasonably good laying muscovies out there, but it would take some time to find them. My understanding is that some tend to roost like chickens as well (they are in fact a breed of goose, or so I’ve read)! If you do decide to give Muscovy ducks a go, there are a couple of Facebook groups that are worth checking out – just search for them.

All the best, and hope to hear from you again sometime,

Matt


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